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Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2019

Most youth in the United States do not ascribe strictly to any orthodox religion such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Catholicism among others. Instead, these youth are coming up with a religion of their own, which although nobody is formally registering or claiming membership of, is growing by the day in terms of those who ascribe to it.

Most theological scholars who have written papers on the subject prefer to call this new trend Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. There is an aspect of semantic clarification that is necessary at this point and this is simply to state that the words Moralistic Therapeutic Deism do not refer to a specific aspect.

Instead, one should take each word individually and attempt to extract the meaning of the phrase. Consequently, ‘moralistic’ has to do with morals, therapeutic has to do with the therapeutic effect that having certain morals attract, and deism refers to the divine deity that these youth envisage as related to the predefined moral order and its therapeutic effects.

This paper provides a brief outline of what moralistic therapeutic deism constitutes from the informed viewpoint of some prominent theologians, specifically, Dorothy Day, Amal Abdel-Hakim, and Elie Wiesel. Elie is notably different from the former authors because of his contrary belief that God should and does interact more with his creation than people in the modern world portray him.


All three authors agree that the view correctly held by most American teenagers on religion is that one should ascribe to some moral codes, which essentially enables people to be good. According to Dorothy Day, this means that people should continually strive to be nice, polite, kind, caring, compassionate, loving, patient, forgiving and charitable among other virtues and consequently everybody will be happy.

This is because everybody will be striving to achieve these qualities and to administer them on their neighbors. However, Dorothy is more conservative in her view; she believes that being good means sacrificing one’s life for others and that the MTD view on morals is too generic or vague.

Morality also means not being mean, proud or obnoxious. It incorporates being respectful and pleasant and in the end, these attributes make one feel good about themselves (Abdel-Hakim 23). There lies the connection with the therapeutic aspect of this religion. One can attain subjective wellbeing and happiness, feelings of peace and security and good relations with others when they are practicing these values.

According to Elie, this state is also convenient for resolving one’s problems because one can rely on the collective help of others in the society in which he or she resides or of the God, he or she believes in especially because of the goodness that is characteristic of this state. Amal reiterates God dictates this moral order for humanity to follow and be happy in it. Consequently, everybody that strives to live according to the provisions of the moral code can attain some level of happiness.


This refers to the situation of peace, which results from being moral according to the Divine law or moral order provided by God. It creates an environment that is not stressful, judgmental, sinful, challenging, demanding or inconvenient. Doing good deeds generally makes people feel good about themselves, which MTDs believe was the original intention of God when he created humanity (Day 89).

To achieve this effect, those who ascribe to moralistic therapeutic deism often read canon text differently, or rather they interpret it differently to make them feel good about themselves. Amal believes that God resolves our problems so that we can be happy or less troubled. The end result is that religion is stress-free, it is not judgmental, sinful or too challenging, and it serves to guarantee social justice.


The general inclination is that God exists. He created the universe, and all that is in it and defines the moral code that governs its habitants, especially humanity. Dorothy Day and Amal Abdel-Hakim agree that this God is very distant from humanity, only appearing or closing in on the world when needed.

This is not often though and for most people, it is only when they are in trouble and need his help to come out of it. It is important to note that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not a solo-religion. It is more of a parasitic religion that feeds off the other orthodox religions. Consequently, there are Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deists who believe in the Jesuit gospel but are not so strict about other convictions such as an ascetic lifestyle on a nun or the process of repentance for breaking the Ten Commandments.

Similarly, the Jewish Moralistic Therapeutic Deists still believe in a messiah, but they are not so keen with the basic requirements of their religion. The same applies to Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. God is not overbearing, controlling or scary. Instead, he simply plays the role of one who monitors over his creation.

If he does not like something, he changes it. Amal gave him the title of Divine Butler or Cosmic Therapist. However, Elie disagrees with this representation asserting that God is not supposed to distance himself from his creation, and that instead he should and does maintain a close connection with it, which is why he is able to answer prayers when people ask him for things (Wiesel 4).

To this extent, Elie is not a Deist because a Deist would accept this view of God being distant as the way things should be. At the crown of the Deist, belief is that, good people go to heaven.

Work Cited

Abdel-Hakim, Amal. Does My Head Look Big In This? New Jersey: Springler, 2010. Print.

Day, Dorothy. The Long Loneliness. New York: HarperOne, 1996. Print.

Wiesel, Elie. “Religion: Moraistic Therapeutic Deism.” Theology 2007: 23. Print.

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